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nutrition needs of a teenager

Teenage comes with complex changes both emotional and physical. Nutrition is extremely essential to the overall development of teens. Physical growth has two major components, genetic impression, and lifestyle impression. We cannot modify the genes of an individual; however, we can ensure that lifestyle has a positive impact on the development story. 

Teen’s requirement of calories and nutrients is different and needs special attention. Having complete knowledge of the same prepares the child for healthy and happy adult life. 

Gaining height and internal growth

Boys generally show the growth spurt at around 14 years of age whereas girls spurt is mostly around 12 years of age. It is at this stage that we should ensure that the child gets a nutritional and balanced diet. This not only brings out the best in the child but also makes a bond between the child and healthy food.

Eating healthy is ensuring that we meet all the requirements of nutrients and calories. We should ensure that the food contains all the vital vitamins and minerals (both macro and micro). In case you discover any deficiency, do not hesitate in increasing the intake of deficient nutrients in the form of food or supplements. However, you must take the supplements only under the doctor’s supervision and recommendation. 

Calories required

As the body undergoes physiological changes, it needs more energy to produce positive output. All the energy needed for positive growth is in the form of calories that a child consumes. It has been seen that teenage boys on average need 2500 to 3000 calories per day depending on their height. Girls on the other hand need 2000 to 2500 calories per day. As the growth period stops, the calories requirement goes down. If the child does not reduce the intake it will result in gaining weight in the form of unhealthy adipose deposits.  


There are three major nutrient forms namely proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Remember that each gram of protein and carbohydrate provides 4 calories whereas fat provides 9 calories. Let us cover these nutrients one by one.


Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They carry out all the repair functions. Hence proteins are extremely essential for the normal growth of a child. We can simply calculate the need by multiplying body weight in kgs by 0.85. Hence if the weight of a child is 50 kgs; the protein required by the body is 42 grams. Generally, girls require about 10% less than boys.

Adolescence is the period when the body develops both type 1 and type 2 muscle cells. Although the formation and uses are different which we will not discuss here, however, a protein-deficient diet will underdevelop the muscle tissues leading to several ailments during the adult period. There are several dietary sources of proteins such as cheese, eggs, fish, chicken, soy, milk, etc


This is the main source of fuel for the body to perform internal and external tasks including cell metabolism. However, choice of carbohydrates and quantity both are essential. We need to remember that the calorie needs of a teenager are higher and if not provided will lead to under-potential growth. 

We must try complex carbohydrates in food as they provide sustained energy. As the growth of the body is a continuous process; the energy is always available to the system.

Complex carbohydrates are available in whole grains, fiber-rich fruits, fiber-rich vegetables, oats, and similar food products. One must be aware that simple carbohydrates seduce children by their sweet taste but provide brief bursts of energy only. Hence, minimize the simple carbohydrates in the diet. 

Dietary Fats

People have made an opinion that the word fat is always linked with unhealthy eating. But that is not true. We need to understand that several vitamins are fat-soluble. Hence our diet needs the presence of fats so the body absorbs the vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. This does not mean that we have to get dependent on a fat-heavy diet. Dietary fats are of three different types: 

  1. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest of all. The fat is present in olive oil, peanut oil, peanut butter, cashews, walnuts, and canola oil. 
  2. Polyunsaturated fat is second best. It is present in corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, sesame seed oil, and a few more similar oils. 
  3. Saturated fat is the major culprit. These are cholesterol-laden and are extremely heavy. Found in meat, butter, cheese, egg yolks, coconut oil, palm oil, pure ghee are a few examples. One must reduce the consumption of this to a minimum. 

 Processed and packaged food 

Processes and packages of food generally contain a lot of unhealthy preservatives and ingredients such as saturated fats, sugar, salt (high sodium), and chemicals. These increase the shelf life. However, these products are extremely unhealthy for our bodies and result in long-term damage. 

Vitamins and minerals

Teenagers require a whole lot of vitamins and minerals. However, it has been seen that generally, kids are deficient in calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. It is important that if any deficiency is noticed, one must compensate and bring it to normal levels. At times we require blood tests and other evaluations to bring out the deficiency. One must not feel hesitant to do so if the need arises. 


We must have a balanced diet. We require all three macronutrients that are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. A healthy way of doing it is by dividing the food into a ratio of 40:40:20. Hence 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 20% fats will not only provide balance in food and calories but also will stimulate lean body growth. Also remember that in 20% fat, one must never exceed saturated fat by more than 10%. Just keep the diet healthy and one can have the best development which will help a child live healthy for all of his or her life.

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